Local authorities have been warned that there are "no hiding places" from the radical overhaul of education services demanded by education minister Leighton Andrews.
In a major speech this week, Mr Andrews challenged Wales's 22 councils to deliver an "ambitious and radical" set of shared services by September 2012.
He warned councils they were "deluding themselves" if they thought they could "play at collaboration" in the "forlorn hope" he would not trouble them.
Chris Llewelyn, director of education at the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), told TES Cymru that councils must stick to their promises.
"There are no hiding places. It is going to be challenging, but the system isn't there to serve the interests of providers; it is there for the learners."
Mr Llewelyn said councils were "systematically" working through the recommendations from the minister's landmark speech in February, and were "committed and determined" to improve standards.
But Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said that while some authorities had made progress, others were still "too precious" about their independence.
"Councils must put delivery at the heart of everything they do," he said.
On Wednesday, Mr Andrews outlined the progress on the 20-point action plan he launched five months ago in response to Wales's poor results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and a damning report on educational standards from Estyn.
He said primary and secondary schools required immediate and specialist support and challenge on top of the assistance they got from local authorities, and said his new school standards unit would operate quickly to end complacency and improve performance across the whole system.
Mr Andrews also announced the creation of a new statutory National Literacy and Numeracy Framework for all learners aged five to 14.
Teaching unions welcomed the "specialist support" promised in the speech.
Elaine Edwards, general secretary of Welsh medium union UCAC, said: "This is something teachers have been crying out for for many years. We hope this is a step in the right direction and the beginning of a proper dialogue on these important issues."
But Anna Brychan, director of NAHT Cymru, said: "A huge climate of expectation is being created - schools are being encouraged to expect expert, specialist support and challenge built around their individual requirements. We hope that can be done in these timescales."